Putin and global sharks smell Biden’s weakness

Many of us remember Rodney Dangerfield, the chubby comedian whose signature line was, “I don’t get no respect.” Judging by the actions and words of America’s enemies, neither does President Biden. Russia and our other major adversaries are showing their contempt for Mr. Biden as if they were wired in series.

Mr. Biden‘s mid-June summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin faded into insignificance quickly as shown by Mr. Putin‘s post-summit actions. Having shrugged off Mr. Biden‘s mild rebukes on cyberattacks and human rights Mr. Putin, who always plays to his tough-guy image, ordered a demonstration of his contempt for the president.

Less than a week after the summit, Russian naval forces, comprised of more than twenty ships, submarines, and fighter and bomber aircraft, held an exercise that reportedly came within thirty-five miles of Hawaii. The Russian defense ministry announced its forces’ success in practicing how to sink aircraft carriers. U.S. fighters were scrambled twice to intercept Russian aircraft approaching our air defense identification zone causing the Russians to veer away.

About five days later, a UK destroyer sailed through Ukrainian waters that Russia claims as its own. Russian aircraft came close to the ship and while the UK defense ministry denied it — the Russians claimed to have fired warning shots and dropped bombs near the ship.

Were that not enough, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russian forces might target ships making future “intrusions,” in effect threatening to sink them. His warning was directed at us more than the UK.

The exercise off Hawaii and the claimed firing of warning shots at the UK ship were some of Russia’s most aggressive actions since the Cold War. These events were the latest attempts by Mr. Putin to intimidate Mr. Trump, who Mr. Putin believes is weak.

Russia, Iran and North Korea have all concluded that Mr. Biden is weak and that they can get bigger compromises from him than they give in return.

Ebrahim Raisi is apparently being groomed to succeed Iran’s elderly “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei which makes it no surprise that he will be Iran’s next president.

That Mr. Raisi was chosen in a rigged election (the only kind the ayatollahs allow in Iran) should be no surprise. Mr. Raisi, a hard-liner even by Iranian standards, has blood on his hands. Not only did he help the regime suppress the 2009 “Green Revolution” which former President Obama refused to support — Mr. Raisi also reportedly was a member of a “murder commission” responsible for the deaths of about five thousand Iranians in 1988.

In mid-June, under Mr. Khamenei’s orders, Mr. Raisi rejected the Biden administration’s attempts, through indirect negotiations, to include limits on Iran’s missile program or its support for “militias” terrorist networks operating openly which are destabilizing several Middle Eastern nations, in any revival of the 2015 nuclear weapons deal. Mr. Raisi’s rejection of Mr. Biden‘s overtures raises the stakes in any new nuclear weapons deal.

Mr. Biden would be foolish to accept any revival of the 2015 deal on Iran’s terms.

Mr. Biden probably believed that the end of former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s term in office would result in some moderation in Israel’s opposition to any nuclear weapons deal with Iran. That revival of the deal, revoked by former president Trump, is one of Mr. Biden‘s most urgent foreign policy initiatives. That hope was quickly quashed by Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett.

In his first speech to the Israeli parliament Mr. Bennett said that the renewal of the deal was a mistake. Saudi Arabia which, like Israel, is directly threatened by Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs surely shares Mr. Bennett’s view.

Mr. Biden persists in what are obviously pointless negotiations with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear weapons deal. With Mr. Raisi as president Iran will continue to insist that all U.S. sanctions against Iran be relieved as a precondition to any new deal. There must not be any deal with Iran that doesn’t include limits on Iran’s missile program, its support for terrorist militias and lacks intensive inspections of all Iran’s nuclear sites.

Mr. Biden had offered to negotiate with the North Koreans anytime, anywhere, and without preconditions. That was a big mistake. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, always seeking attention, rejected any negotiations with the U.S., even without preconditions.

There should be no negotiations with the Kim regime without preconditions such as international inspections of its nuclear weapons and missile programs and a cessation of missile tests.

Messrs. Putin, Raisi and Kim clearly believe that Mr. Biden can be pushed into compromises that will both strengthen them and weaken US national security. That weakness has been displayed often enough for them to not doubt it.

And then there is China which having just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party – is still building its army, navy, air and missile forces amid a strong surge of nationalism. At the same time, Mr. Biden‘s defense spending plans diminish significant investments such as naval shipbuilding.

The United States cannot afford to have a Rodney Dangerfield-like president. We don’t care if the world doesn’t love us but our enemies must respect us. Right now, they don’t.

• Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”

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